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Kevin & Jackie Freiberg

The World is Getting Smaller

Are You Equipped?

earthWhen Kevin returned from India where he addressed the delegates of NASSCOM (India’s National Association of Software and Service Companies), a conference where the who’s who in information technology and business process outsourcing meet to network and learn.

Other conference speakers included, Nandan Nilekani Co-Chairman at Infosys, B Ramalinga Raju, founder and Chairman of Satyam Computer Services, Ginni Rometty, Senior Vice President, Global Business Services for IBM, Wim Elfrink, Cisco’s Chief Globalization Officer, Steve Rohleder, Chief Operating Officer at Accenture, and a few other titans of industry in India.

There is a buzz, an entrepreneurial fervor swirling around us globally. Most of us read about it in the headlines, but do we really connect the dots? Do we really grasp the full weight of what’s going on in India, China, Brazil and other countries and how it will impact us?

Forward thinking, globally sophisticated, and passionate about changing the world, business leaders from around the globe are wrestling with the following issues:

1. Talent Virtualization

Where will we go for talent? Expertise is growing around the world—Vietnam is up and coming (95% literacy rate), Israel is an R&D mecca, Brazil has become one of the new outsourcing capitals in the world.

How do we go (virtually) to where the talent is (centers of core competence around the world) and then leverage that talent through networking these centers of excellence? This means we have to get comfortable reaching across geographical boundaries and learning how to work with co-workers who come from different cultures with different perspectives.

These leaders all agree that talent must be a strategic priority—it cannot be delegated to HR.

2. Global Citizens

If we are moving into an era where talent is being virtualized, we must find leaders who are globally aware and equip them to be global citizens. This requires people who are comfortable with flexibility, able to manage ambiguity and who appreciate the differences in teammates who come from other parts of the world.

Leaders will not only have to be global citizens, they will also have to lead a multi-generational workforce—Gens X and Y, Net Gen and Gen i (the interactive generation). The boomers are retiring and the composition and texture of the workforce is changing dramatically. One size doesn’t fit all. With regard to motivating this kaleidoscope of workers, leaders must be ambidextrous.

3. Innovation

We must create organizations that are built for innovation, speed, and agility. Innovation is integral to the DNA of an organization and must become a way of life versus a collateral thing. We must trade hierarchical, command and control structures for radical collaboration among specialists who are adept at building relationships quickly—people who have a holistic, big-picture view.

Radical collaboration is about taking the initiative to find out what other project teams are doing, to get in the know about who’s working on something hot and exciting. By quickly getting a picture of the strengths and capabilities of other areas within the firm, intrapreneurs can connect the dots and bring together combinations of insights and core competencies that lead to innovation. Radical collaboration is about connecting with other thought leaders in the organization and building relationships with these folks. This will help you feel comfortable locking arms with them as you seek to find creative, seamless, and holistic solutions for your customers.

4. Service Virtualization

Unlike producing “things,” services can be produced and consumed from anywhere in the world. This means we are and will be competing with people we never dreamed of who come from places we’ve never heard of. For the slow and arrogant this represents a major challenge. For the quick and learned it’s a huge opportunity.

5. Infrastructure

How does India take what it has done with IT globally and turn it inward to build state-of-the-art infrastructure? In the US and other parts of the world we talk about the smart fridge and smart homes (think Bill Gates), these guys are talking about smart cities.

6. Conclusion and Implications

The more I travel the more I know and the less I know. The quality of thinking, the level of insight and the provocative debates among the thought leaders gathered at NAASCOM was truly remarkable. The people of India are curious, smart and confident. And, they are excited about sharing center stage among the catalysts who are changing the world.

Here are a couple of personal thoughts I had after the conference:

  • I grew up in South Dakota. It’s easy to develop this naive perspective that the world operates according to what I see immediately in front of me—it doesn’t. Even after living in San Diego on the Pacific Rim for 30 years, it is easy to become so insulated and so comfortable with where I am. I need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
  • There is a buzz, an entrepreneurial fervor swirling around us globally. Most of us read about it in the headlines, but do we really connect the dots? Do we really grasp the full weight of what’s going on in India, China, Brazil and other countries and how it will impact us?
  • If those of us in the western world are going to stay relevant we must develop a global perspective, the world is getting smaller, not bigger. I need to assume responsibility for learning how to be a player in the global economy.
  • If our children are going to be equipped to succeed in the 21st century, they too, must have a global perspective. I want to inspire their desire to learn about other parts of the world and help them create opportunities to experience other cultures.
  • As uncomfortable as it might be for any of us to immerse ourselves in a culture different from our own (I certainly feel challenged every time I go abroad), a trip is worth a thousand words. As one of these leaders put it, to think out of the box you have to step out of the box.